Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
California has strict laws when it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Drugs, as defined by California law, include anything other than alcohol that may affect a person’s brain, muscles or nervous system. It is considered driving under the influence if a drug, prescription or otherwise, affects your ability to drive like a sober person.
The District Attorney may file criminal charges for driving under the influence of prescription drugs, over the counter drugs or illicit drugs. This is often surprising to my clients when they come to me with proof of a legal prescription. What I explain to my clients is that just because you have a doctor’s prescription to take a certain drug, that does not make it ok to drive while you are under the influence of that prescription drug. There are many types of medication that have an affect on our thinking, seeing and motor skills. For this reason, people are advised not to drive when taking certain types of medication.
With alcohol, there is a specific level that is acceptable to be at while driving and can be measured. But with drugs, there is no legal level of driving after having taken drugs. For this reason, the prosecution does have the burden of proving that the level of drugs was such that it impaired the person arrested, enough that they were unable to drive like a sober person.
There are defenses to a charge of driving under the influence of drugs, depending upon your circumstances and the drug(s) in question. Some of the more common defenses are: (1) Having drugs in your system does not, in and of itself, mean that you were under the influence; (2) Signs of drug impairment, which is what an arresting officer will look for, can be caused by a multitude of other reasons; and (3) The procedures used to collect and test the blood or urine, may not be in compliance with the law.
Just like driving under the influence of alcohol, DUI of drugs is a misdemeanor but can be filed as a felony under certain circumstances. The penalties are typically the same as well. Penalties include informal probation, fees and fines, DUI School and a license suspension. However, if this is your second, third or fourth offense, the penalties are more severe. The fines may be higher, the DUI class/school longer and a more strict driver’s license suspension.
If you have been arrested to driving under the influence of drugs, seeking the advice of an experienced DUI defense attorney should be your first step. An aggressive DUI defense lawyer must review everything from the initial stop to the testing procedures to determine whether your rights were violated.